Tuesday, 28 November 2023

Officials investigate suspicious death in Lucerne; wife of possible victim in custody

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Investigators look over the scene at a residence on Highland Avenue on Lucerne where the body of a man was found in his burned home on the morning of Monday, June 22, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

 

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED: 12:06 a.m. Tuesday, June 23



LUCERNE – Authorities are investigating a death and home fire in a Lucerne neighborhood.


Investigators spent most of Monday combing the ruins of a home on the corner of Highland and Second avenues.


It was there early Monday morning that they discovered human remains just inside the front door of the burned trailer home, Sgt. Jim Samples, supervisor of the Lake County Sheriff's Office's Major Crimes Unit, said at the scene Monday afternoon.


Samples characterized the situation's circumstances as “suspicious.”


Officials haven't yet formally identified the remains, but they're believed to be those of the home's resident, Harry Jon Waner.


Waner's wife, 53-year-old Sandra Jean Bronson, was taken into custody on Monday for having violated a domestic violence restraining order, according to Sheriff's Capt. James Bauman.


Northshore Fire Protection District firefighters were dispatched to a reported structure fire at the residence at approximately 4:50 a.m. Monday, Bauman said.


Next-door neighbor Craig Bach said he and his wife awoke to hear their neighbors shouting, and then a man rang the bell at their gate repeatedly. When Bach got out to the gate he saw the glare from the flames.


By the time he got out in the street, he said the trailer was gone. “Trailers just go too quick,” he said.


Battalion Chief Pat Brown said three Northshore Fire engines, an engine from Cal Fire in Clearlake Oaks plus resources from Northshore Fire's Clearlake Oaks station responded to the scene, along with a total of 15 firefighters.


Firefighters arrived to find the single-wide mobile home fully engulfed, said Bauman. Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the area for crowd control.


Bach said the fire appeared to have started in the front of the trailer. Despite the fire being so close to his home, a large oak tree between the two residences acted like a shield, protecting his house.


“Considering the proximity, I'm just incredibly fortunate,” said Bach, who credited the fire district's response for saving the entire block.


Bauman said that, about a half-hour into battling the fire, emergency personnel on scene requested the Lake County Arson Task Force respond to investigate the fire.


Sheriff's detectives also responded to the scene based on information that Waner may have been at the home when the fire broke out and that human remains were believed to be amongst the rubble, Bauman said.


Officials secured a search warrant, Bauman said, which allowed an investigation of the scene to move forward.


Bauman said Arson Task Force members from Northshore Fire, Cal Fire, Lake County Fire, the sheriff’s office and an arson dog team from the Woodland Fire Department investigated the scene throughout the day.


Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff also was on scene as the investigation at the residence continued Monday afternoon.


The Lake County Sheriff's Office Mobile Emergency Operations Center was set up across the street on Highland Avenue, between Second and Third Avenues. The area was cordoned off by yellow crime scene tape, as was a portion of Second.


Neighbors gathered to watch as investigators – wearing white boots and blue gloves – combed the scene, taking pictures and looking through burned debris that surrounded the trailer's burned-out structure.


It was about three hours into the investigation that sheriff’s detectives learned that Bronson had been at the home the previous night in violation of a domestic violence protection order, Bauman said.


Bronson, whose booking sheet lists her occupation as caregiver, was located at another home in the neighborhood at about 9 a.m. Monday, said Bauman.


Following questioning by detectives, Bronson was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of violating the restraining order, Bauman said.


Her bail on Monday was set at an enhanced amount of $250,000, pending further investigation of the fire, according to Bauman.


Bauman said Waner's restraining order against Bronson was effective on June 15, the date it also was served.

 

 

 

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Sandra Bronson was in custody at the Lake County Jail on Monday, June 22, 2009, where she was being held for violation of a domestic violence restraining order. The home of Bronson's husband, Harry Waner, was destroyed by fire early Monday, and human remains found inside his trailer are believed to be Waner's.
 

 

 


Final identification of the remains isn't yet complete, and the determination of the fire's cause also remains under investigation, Bauman said.


Brown, who worked as incident commander along with Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins, said firefighters were released from the scene just after 4 p.m. Monday.


However, sheriff's officials remained on scene through the night, guarding the property. Highland Avenue between Second and Third, and well as a portion of Second Avenue, remained cordoned off.


Bach, who has lived on Highland for nearly four years, said Waner has been his neighbor the whole time, renting the trailer that burned Monday.


Waner played the guitar and the men had spent time together playing music, Bach said.


He recalled seeing Waner the last time on Friday, but believed Waner had been around all weekend.


Bach called the relationship between Waner and Bronson “very interesting.”


He said the two, who he estimated had known each other at least a few years, had gotten married several weeks ago.


Bach said he missed the reception and when he saw Waner some time later he apologized for not making it to the event.


He recalled Waner telling him that Bronson had turned into “the bride from hell,” and that she was “crazy.”


In recent weeks Bach said neighbors on the street had reported hearing Bronson threaten to kill Waner.


Bauman said more information on the case will be released as its confirmed by the Arson Task Force and the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

 

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Investigators cordoned off Highland Avenue in Lucerne on Monday, June 22, 2009, so they could investigate a fire and death. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 

 

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A crime scene investigator walks around the remains of Harry Waner's Lucerne home on Monday, June 22, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 

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Harry Waner's trailer home burned quickly in the early morning fire on Monday, June 22, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

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